Cornerback Kenneth Acker didn't have a strong start to his NFL career, but now he's coming on fast.
Acker, a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers out of SMU in 2014, was having a solid preseason as a rookie when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in a foot, placed on injured reserve and missed all of the 2014 season.
He then entered this summer's training camp as a long shot among a group of corners competing for a starting spot in a wide-open competition.
But when the 49ers season began, Acker was a starter. He graded out very well during the preseason and had an especially good game against the Broncos, intercepting Peyton Manning and also knocking away a pass that might have produced a touchdown.
Acker has kept his spot all season. After starting the first eight games, Acker missed last weekend's victory over the Falcons because of a concussion. But, if he can pass the league's concussion protocols after this week's bye, Acker figures to be a starter on Nov. 22 when the 49ers resume play against the Seahawks.
Acker has three interceptions, five passes defensed and has been in on 32 tackles. He and Tramaine Brock are tied for the team lead in interceptions.
Only Brock (549) has played more snap than Acker (533) at corner this season.
To some 49ers observers, Acker is one of the team's brightest spots in a dark season. Though Acker has had some rough games -- such as the one at Pittsburgh, when the Steelers carved up the entire San Francisco secondary -- Tyler Emerick, who writes for 49ers.com, noted this week that Acker "looks like a nice building block" for the future.
Acker says he came into the season knowing he'd have to play extremely well to win a starting spot, but he was ready after a year of study and preparation.
"I went at it full force," Acker said recently. "As I was coming into this season, they told us how much of a competition it would be. I prepared myself for it and I felt like at the end of it, I put my best foot forward and I got the job."